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The Great Gatsby and The American Dream
Transcript of The Great Gatsby and The American Dream
What is the
The American Dream is a set of ideals which includes opportunities for success and prosperity, with an upward social climb that is achieved through hard work.
The idea that you can advance in society regardless of your social class, race, or the circumstances of your birth.
If you work hard enough you will be rewarded and move up the social ranks.
Pull yourself up by the boot straps.
Come from nothing.
Rags to riches story.
An American success story.
Livin' the dream.
If you can dream it, you can do it.
Where did this idea come from?
Initially, settlers in America were looking for opportunities to better their lives, as well as looking to move further west and expand America.
Many settlers were coming to the country to get away from their lives back home and were coming to America to "make it."
From America's Declaration of Independence.
Okay...What's in the dream?
Bear in mind, it is different for everyone.
Children grow up with an education
House with a white picket fence
Lots of things
Nuclear family - 1 boy, 1 girl
Children have a better life than their parents
According to Ted Ownby in his 1999 novel:
American Dreams in Mississippi:
Consumers, Poverty, and Culture, 1830-1998
Dream of Abundance
Dream of Democracy of Goods
Dream of Freedom of Choice
Dream of Novelty
-Many material goods
-Everybody has access to the same goods regardless of class, sex, race
-Choose you own lifestyle
-Changing fashions, new models, broaden the consumer experience
So, how do we see the American Dream depicted in Gatsby?
All the characters in the novel are in some way, shape or form , chasing that dream
The 1920s are depicted as an era of decadence, excess and capitalist greed, and a laissez-faire attitude.
Myrtle Wilson's death
Materialism - wanting things and then just having them
The Haves and the Have-nots
Gatsby and Tom are the Haves
Wilsons - Have-nots
East Egg vs. West Egg
Gatsby's death mirrors the American Dream
Pursuit of honesty
He is an observer of all the mess
He was born into the American Dream
Went to a good school
Was given money from his parents
Works hard to make ends meat
Wants to make enough money to move away and start a new life
She desperately wants to live an upper class life
Thus, she has the affair with Tom
She gets a taste of the upper class life
She lives an upper class live
She is about the age where she is going to parties and doing the Roaring 20s thing
Always looking for the next best thing
He is full of hope (to get Daisy back)
He does pull himself up by the bootstraps
Does it illegally
This is another side of the American Dream
He ultimately pays the price for this and his dream ends
"It's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it." - George Carlin
She is living the American Dream
Rich, husband, child
Items to look out for...
In chapter one of The Great Gatsby, we are introduced to most of the main characters that are involved in this classic American tale of excess, greed, and chasing of the American Dream. The chapter starts with a soliloquy from our narrator, Nick Carraway, in which he tells us about the experience he had the previous summer and the characters he met.
•Look out for Nick's thoughts on Gatsby, Tom, Daisy and Jordan
•East Egg vs. West Egg
•Haves vs. Have-nots
•The type of conversation Tom, Daisy and Jordan have
•Introduction to Gatsby by other characters
•The green light
In chapter two, we learn about the have-nots in the story. We are invited into the world they live in and are given a vivid description of what that world looks like.
•The eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg
•Tom and Myrtle’s infidelity
•The Wilsons – specifically Myrtle
•The Valley of the Ashes
Chapter three gives us some insight into who Gatsby may be and what he is all about. The curtain is pulled back and we get to see a full view into the world of the Roaring 20s with Gatsby’s excessive parties and the people who attend them.
•How people act at the party
•Mystery surrounding who Gatsby is
•What are your impressions of Gatsby? Nick?
In chapter four, we really get a good sense and background of who Gatsby really is. We are introduced to Meyer Wolfsheim who makes us question Gatsby’s character a little. The plot also thickens when Jordan reveals to Nick, Gatsby’s relationship to Daisy and his plan to woo her back.
•What does Nick’s list of attendees to Gatsby’s parties say about those people? About Gatsby?
•Nick’s growing relationship with Jordan
•Gatsby’s plan to woo Daisy
Chapter five finally brings us the meeting between Gatsby and Daisy. We see a different side of Gatsby that we would not expect, as well as the awkwardness of two people who have not seen each other in quite some time.
•How Daisy reacts to Gatsby
•How Nick reacts to what is going on
•The green light makes an appearance again
In chapter six, we learn Gatsby’s background story and begin to learn a little bit more about the man he really is. We also see an awkward encounter between Daisy and those vying for her love.
•Rumors and mystery about who Gatsby is still circulating in and around NYC
•How do you feel about Gatsby after this chapter
•What kind of person is Dan Cody
•Did you notice the irony in this chapter
•More visible East Egg vs. West Egg tensions
•What does Gatsby say/feel about the past
Chapter seven shows us a Gatsby who is still cloaked in mystery, but we start to see a change in Gatsby’s personality and demeanor. We really begin to see all of the characters exposed and get to see who they all really are.
•Awkward and tension-filled hang involving Jordan, Nick, Gatsby, Daisy and Tom
•Tom’s infidelity resurfaces
•Daisy’s relationship with her child
•Dr. T. J. Eckleburg’s Eyes return
•The Valley of the Ashes returns
Wilsons/Haves vs Have-nots/Rich vs. Not-so-rich
•What role does the heat play in this chapter
•Confrontation between Gatsby and Tom
•Men talking without the woman’s input
•Incident with Myrtle Wilson
•Conversation between Nick and Jordan
•Gatsby still holding onto the dream
In chapter eight, we see the fall out from Tom and Gatsby’s confrontation and Daisy’s rejection of Gatsby. We continue to see Gatsby’s love for Daisy and get further background into their previous time together. Be on the lookout for some foreshadowing that gives you some clue as to what lies in the near future for Gatsby and his American Dream. Also, we are not done with George Wilson either (dun, dun, dun!).
•Gatsby’s feelings for Daisy
•Nick’s friendship with Gatsby
•The relationship between Nick and Jordan
•George Wilson reappears – Who did he talk to?
•The American Dream
In the wake of Gatsby’s death, chapter nine shows us Nick being a dutiful friend and handling all of Gatsby’s affairs. We also observe Nick’s incredulity at the responses and reactions to Gatsby’s death by all of his “friends.” The book on who Gatsby really was is closed by a visit from his father, who shows up to attend his son’s funeral.
•Meyer Wolsheim’s reaction
•Henry C. Gatz
•The death of the American Dream and the new idea of the American Dream: “I raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter” (p. 171).
•Jordan and Nick
•Tom and Nick